Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Ringside Shadows #121: Inspired Writings

You know, between the nast of the hyped Vince Russo / David Flair video, the stank of a long-deserved title reign for a nameless ho, and the injustice of the Hogan vs. Kidman vs. Hogan match, a couple rather decent shows managed to squeeze their way into our Monday evening programming. For the most part, both tried their best to give us something new, something inventive. Something worth the time of day. Though I wasn't really in the right mindset to appreciate it, I'll admit; last night aimed to please and for the most part, it delivered.

Shake It Up

Though they've done just about everything possible in an effort to attract new viewers, a couple ideas have stuck.. and for good reason. Some changes are cosmetic, others affecting the layout of the show as a whole. Chances are if they've stuck around this long, they're here to stay.. until another new wave of viewers is needed.

In what was likely to be a one-time shot, the old-school WCW entryway has made its triumphant return in the month past. While it served one main purpose at the PPV that saw its return, the tall ramp has added a whole new dimension to possible offense and wrestler entrances to the otherwise humdrum WCW set. Where the WWF's athletes are just beginning to scratch the surface of their entryway possibilities, WCW's got years of history from which to work and expand. It's been years since the days of a Sting / Cactus Jack grudge (featuring a heavy use of the rampway), and I'd like to think such a groundbreaking feud could be on the horizon once more today. In a day that would just as soon spit on the past as learn from it, it's nice to see the comeback of something distinctly WCW.

On the other hand, I'm afraid the number of viewers has been hopelessly outnumbered by the sheer mass of announcers clouding Nitro's announce tables. To appoint Scott Hudson was a good choice (a choice I would've made months ago, when he auditioned for the role), but to do so alongside Mark Madden makes things a bit too crowded for my dollar. Once the occasional workers make their way down to offer commentary, things get completely out of hand. The superb Flair vs. Jarret main event was almost completely marred as FIVE men screamed over one another, with topics ranging from the match at hand to Russo's wardrobe. Something needs to be done.

The Goldberg monster truck is a silly idea.. but it provides its share of entertainment, as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm not among the mass that thinks a popular athlete is at his best atop a fifteen foot truck.. memories of the Hogan / Giant "sumo truck" incident spring to mind.. I don't really enjoy watching qualified drivers in those things anymore. No, my fun comes in observing the overly powerful Goldberg truck as it gets stuck on top of the car it's meant to be crushing time and time again. It's two for three in that aspect, but who's counting? Maybe it really is Goldberg up there..

Finally, I'm all about the main event curtain jerker. Using Sting/Vampiro to open the program was a good theory, and might help their first hour ratings a bit in the weeks to come. Though the match itself didn't live up to its expectations, the move is a wise one. If WCW can show what audience it's got left they're willing to give us quality from the opening bell, they might find themselves back in the game sooner than we've all predicted.

The Main Eventers

Let's go back a year, shall we? If you'd been told the May 15th, 2000 edition of Raw is War would feature a Chris Benoit vs. Rocky submission match main event that featured a Chris Jericho run-in.. would you have honestly believed a word of it? To tell the truth, one year ago I was still having trouble grasping HHH as a credible main eventer. The job Vince has done, building a credible roster of main event champions, challengers and contenders in the absence of Austin, the Undertaker, Michaels, Foley and Kane, if nothing else proves he knows what he's doing. Sure, we've seen several of the same matches for the past 3 months now.. but they're each staying alive with new twists and new gimmicks and where I'm getting tired of the Rocky vs. HHH title matches, Benoit and Jericho have only scratched the surface. Mixing and matching partners has successfully elevated all four men to heights previously unreachable, not to mention giving us something nice to watch. With two superb workers, one worthwhile athlete and one carryable entertainer (Rocky..), the chances are pretty good that we'll get a good match out of the toss up. I won't complain.

The Youth Trip

Above most everything else, this past Monday was an evening in which most of the youth took a step back and watched.. or screwed up of their own right.

Crowbar and Chris Candido led a series of follies in the ring, culminating in what had to have been one of the worst missed spots of the year (that "on again, off again piledriverbomb") atop the new entryway. The intergender violence debate is apparantly not even an issue anymore. Nor is building a believable match, apparantly, as the two not presently involved in the match would stand by, about a foot away, and calmly await their turn. What could've been a decent match was instead relegated to a mixed-tag brawl for the cruiserweight title and another flash in the pan title reign. I'm not ready to write the upcoming Candido / Crowbar feud off just yet, but if last night was any example.. well, last night wasn't any kind of example. Perhaps I expect too much..

This space would normally be reserved for my bitching about the Hogan vs. Kidman match, Hogan's lack of selling.. yadda yadda. But I'm beyond the point of caring. Maybe I'd say something if the Hulkster did something extraordinary, but with things cruising along as they are.. I guess I'm desensitized to it. What once held promise as the strongest angle of the bunch is now pretty well extinguished. It's nice to see the man in yellow's willing to elevate his nephew, though.

While David and Vince wandered through the Flair estate, Daphne nearly saved the segment in the backdrops. Inversely though, her crazed mentality wasn't really suited for the ring, especially not during the supreme promo of the Flairs. She's a good asset to the company, but they need to learn when enough's enough. However, while we're somewhere near the subject.. wasn't that promo masterful? Little Davey picked up one of his dad's traits pretty well.. too bad it's a clean miss on the rest.

Over on the other side of the pond, the Head Cheese has molded. While I'm sure Al Snow and Blackman are going somewhere with this new angle of theirs, I fear the whole thing's about to be axed before it gets a chance to play out. When 90% of the audience isn't getting the joke, and the others just don't think it's funny.. maybe it's time to find something new. Like I said.. one year ago, Chris Benoit and Jericho weren't near the main event. Al Snow had a shot though, and it wasn't given a chance. It's really too bad, since his work rate generally reflects his stance in the company.

Remember Hardcore Holly? He's in the same boat. His "Big Shot" gimmick was generally pretty well recieved, and brought his career out from the shithole. Where the hardcore division pretty much defined him, his "cousin" has since taken that role. What's left is a man without a purpose, and he needs something new. Soon.

Fifteen Time...

Really quickly, just how cool was that Nitro main event? Though I'm afraid Raw will slaughter it once again in the ratings, Ric and Jeff put on an old school matchup with a few modern twists to keep it fresh. How long has it been since we've seen a World Title decided by a schoolboy? With everyone expecting a Flair loss leading into his retirement match at GAB, this came out of left field and I really enjoyed it. Aside from the announcing (which I eventually muted) and the recent title changes (which took from the match's importance), this one was worthy of another showing. Though Jarrett's already dropped the belt three times now, he's getting his chance to run with the big boys and he's living the dream. This is one that should've been saved for the PPV and given a bit more time. Bravo.

To wrap things up, I've an interesting little debate as conducted through e-mail this past week. It's worth your while, so check it out.. coming to us from cgbeltz@prodigy.net

In your last column I noted that you said Jeff Jarret, gets proportinally as much heat as Triple H. Yet, don't you think that the reason Triple H gets more audience, more attendance, more heat is because people would actually rather see him and what he has to say rather than JJ? I mean they are both the top heels, both in the main event picture. If JJ was really getting such great heat, why don't more people tune in to see him rather than HHH when the shows are running at the same time? Sorry to drag on, just thought it was a little jaded of a point you were making.

Hey, no problem. I love a good debate.

At this point, I think it's a bit unfair to expect any one man, face, heel or behind the scenes to take full charge and responsibility for the state of their ratings. As of right now, the WWF is so hot they could throw a big hunk of ass out to the masses and still double the ratings TNT is pulling in. HHH and Jarrett have neither been on top long enough to make a dent in the slow-motion see-saw game of the ratings. Sure, HHH has been in the main event for nearly a year now, but WCW was giving us some real crap programs near the end of 1997, early 1998 and were still light years ahead of the WWF in the ratings aspect of things.

For my money, I'd rather see Jeff Jarrett walk, talk, work and whistle than HHH. Now, my love affair (or lack thereof) with Helmsley is well-known by this point, however I'll give credit where credit is due. He's pulling in some of the most solid heel heat in the world, and he's doing it steadily. Where the Dudley Boyz or Kurt Angle may be doing a better job as heels, they're both on the verge of becoming faces due to the fickle audiences. HHH (and Jarrett, for that matter), has been mercilessly booed for the majority of his run, and that's something that's really underrated and overlooked today. It's hard to remain hated without becoming 'cool' in the process. Jarrett's woes aren't just limited to bizarre booking, a failing program and a discredited title belt.. they're seeds that have been planted long ago by the likes of Hogan and Nash, Sid and Sullivan. His lower stature has more to do with the legacy of WCW than his performance.. and though that's a rough thing to deal with, it's something he knew coming in.

However, to answer your inquiry; I don't think people tuning in or out for each man has anything to do with their individual performance.. it's the channel they're on. Sometimes I wonder how the ratings would look if WCW appeared on USA and the WWF on TNT.. just once. It's got a lot more to do with habit than any of us really want to admit. Thanks, at any rate, for the great letter.

That should wrap it up for me.. I'll apologize for this column, as like I said.. I wasn't into things last night. Work started up for the summer this go 'round, and with the big Horsemen column I've got in the works I guess I'm already a bit burnt out. Once the upcoming beast gets posted, I guarantee it's worth your while. And maybe we'll get our old drq back, as a bonus.

Thanks, as always for taking the time to get this far.
until then, i remain

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